Category Archives: Healthcare Partners

Volunteers at BYU Craft 301 Yarn Wigs for Children Battling Cancer

By Calvin Petersen

More than 500 people sacrificed sleep and St. Patrick’s Day plans to make yarn wigs for child cancer patients at the Magic Yarn Project’s largest-ever wig workshop. Co-hosted by the Magic Yarn Project and BYU College of Nursing, the event on March 17 was the second workshop of its kind.

“No one leaves these workshops without a smile on their face or without feeling like their simple act of love will make the world a better place. I love being able to witness that in their countenances,” said Holly Christensen, BYU alumna and co-founder of the Magic Yarn Project.


The Magic Yarn Project began in 2015 when Christensen crafted a yarn Rapunzel wig for her friend’s daughter, who had lost much of her hair in chemotherapy. Now three years later, the Magic Yarn Project has made the world a better place for over 7,000 children battling cancer in 36 countries. Each of these children has received a hand-made princess or pirate yarn wig at no cost. Wigs take approximately two hours to make and are crafted by volunteers at wig workshops.


Wig workshop volunteers pose with 301 completed wigs after the service event on March 17, 2018.

“It was a huge success!” Christensen said of this year’s BYU wig workshop. While most of the wigs will be distributed by BYU nursing students during their clinicals at Primary Children’s Hospital, Ryver had the chance to choose her wig in person. She wore an Anna wig and a wide smile as her mother pushed her around the Wilkinson Ballroom in a stroller. Not even three years old, Ryver was diagnosed with leukemia only a few months ago.

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“It was heart-warming to see Princess Ryver light up when she got her wig, and equally rewarding to see her mother get excited about picking out a wig with her. Ryver’s presence definitely made the workshop memorable and was a sweet reminder that this is what the project is all about,” said Christensen. For her, the experience of personally gifting a wig was rare; most wigs are mailed to individuals and cancer centers around the world.


The wig workshop at BYU brought the community together. Among the hundreds of volunteers knotting, braiding and decorating yarn hairpieces was 17-year-old Connor Munden. His grandmother’s involvement in the Magic Yarn Project Utah Chapter inspired an Eagle Scout Service Project to prepare for BYU’s workshop. Along with family and friends, Connor cut most of the yarn—thousands of feet of it—that eventually became 301 completed wigs.


In addition, students from BYU and members of the Magic Yarn Project Utah Chapter volunteered to teach those coming to the workshop how to make various wigs. “This event helped me realize there are lots of different ways to serve those with cancer,” said Maggie Gunn, a BYU nursing student and wig instructor at the workshop, “We may not be able to cure their cancer, but we can provide comfort and love which, in my opinion, is just as important as the chemo.”

“With the Magic Yarn Project, there’s something for everyone,” concluded BYU nursing student Jessica Small, “Whether bedazzling flowers or tying yarn to a wig, people of all ages can come together and make a difference in the lives of so many children.”

Next year’s BYU wig workshop will take place on March 16, 2019. To learn more about the Magic Yarn Project, visit

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“Everyone knows someone who has struggled with cancer: a family member, friend, patient or ward member. While we can’t cure someone’s cancer, we can help, comfort and love them. Making these wigs is a way to show child cancer patients that they’re loved,” said Jane Goodfellow, a fourth-semester BYU nursing student. Goodfellow (right) is pictured with fellow nursing student Leah Guerrero (left). The two volunteered as instructors at the wig workshop.




“A Really Good Big Deal”

Conducting cancer research with some of the best scholars in the field? Working in world-class facilities? Plus a stipend? And getting your name on a published article as an undergrad?

While this may sound too good to be true, three BYU College of Nursing students will be living the dream while working as student interns over the summer at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC). The students—James Reinhardt, Christin Hickman, and Cortney Welch—will not only contribute to the fight against cancer, but also gain invaluable research and publishing skills that they can use to improve BYU’s own cancer research program.

BYU has a long of history of involvement in cancer studies. Currently, cancer studies is managed through the Simmons Center for Cancer Research (SCCR), which arranges for students to work with BYU professors to investigate cancer. Lately, there has been an emphasis on connecting the SCCR with outside locations as well.

“[The SCCR’s] director, Merrill Christensen, has been looking for opportunities for our students to go away from the BYU campus, get a research experience, and then ideally come back to BYU and share with colleagues, including professors that they might RA for,” explains assistant professor Dr. Deborah Himes.

Himes, whose own research focuses heavily on cancer, played a major role in promoting the internship to students and helping them with the application. One unique aspect of the OSUCCC internship is that students had to choose what areas of cancer research they wanted to work in for the summer, and Himes aided students with understanding the different options.

The internship, she explains, is a wonderful opportunity for students to be involved in the research process.

“They’re going to be immersed full-time in a lab, working with professors who are doing current research, and they will be given a small piece of that research to work with some,” she says. The students will analyze that data and derive conclusions from it. They will present that information in a poster, and then later will present it orally to a panel of PhD professors. Following that, they will be able to publish their research in a scholarly article.


Right to left: James Reinhardt, Cortney Welch, Christin Hickman

For the students, the opportunity to complete the internship has a surreal feeling to it, especially since they will be doing real research with real data with established professionals in the field of cancer research.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how the research process works,” Welch says. “I’ve never been a part of research before, so I think this is something really interesting and important to let me know how I can contribute to research in the future and to get my foot in the door.”

One factor that drives the students is an interest in studying cancer.

“I’ve just always had this desire because I feel like cancer is something so mysterious—like, nobody has come up with a direct cure for it quite yet,” says Hickman. “I want to be able to help find that cure or at least find a prevention for cancer and then like I said, there’s not many opportunities for nursing students really to have this kind of cancer research internship.”

Reinhardt is interested in finding out if cancer research is something he would enjoy or not. Last year, he participated in a movement where he rode his bike to raise money for cancer research. Now he feels that he is contributing to the fight against cancer with a new approach.

“I’ve already fulfilled one part of that passion by riding for it and fundraising for it, but it will cool to see that this is the education and informational part of the same disease process,” he says. “Instead of fundraising, I’m learning about it to help in a different way.”

Overall, there is a consensus that the opportunity is, as Himes puts it, a “really good big deal.”

BYU College of Nursing Faculty and Students Get a Crash-Course in Lobbying

How do you get a Congress member to support funding for international child vaccinations? As much as that sounds like the start of a bad joke, last month several BYU College of Nursing faculty and students were taught that the best way is to just go to his or her office and convince them yourself. Then they did it.


Associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy, assistant professor Dr. Janelle Macintosh, assistant teaching professor Gaye Ray, and assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden were joined by graduate students Sarah Davis, Morgan Bateman, Chelsea Schult, and Katie Hill for the trip, organized by Shot@Life.

“[Shot@Life] is part of UNICEF and the goal for Shot @Life is to maintain funding for global immunizations so they work with UNICEF to provide that funding,” Eden explains.

The organization, which is part of the United Nations Foundation, selects and trains established vaccine advocates (labelled “champions”) on how to lobby for international child vaccination funding.

“We had the opportunity to learn how to do it last year, and it was very obvious that we needed to bring students to have this same experience since you can’t match it,” Eden says.

The professors announced the opportunity to the graduate students, and many had their interest piqued. Four students filled out the rigorous application and were accepted to the program.

“For me, I think it seemed like the perfect mix of policy and global health and seeing how the two meet together, and that just really fascinates me,” Bateman explained. Other students had participated with Luthy in a meeting of the Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines in December, which laid the groundwork for their interest in the Shot@Life event.

The conference, which was held February 11-14, started with a day of training on effective lobbying. Professional lobbyists and representatives from groups like the World Health Organization offered instruction in the art of the elevator pitch and winning over policymakers.

“They just said to speak to what your representatives are interested or passionate about,” Hill says. “Coming from Utah, we were encouraged to go for the global safety/safety of the United States because there is so much travel back and forth that just because we’re helping people in other countries doesn’t mean that it isn’t beneficial to the United States.”


“Another thing I was impressed with was they told us to make it personal so that when you go and meet with these people you show your passion, you show why you traveled across the country for this cause,” Bateman says.

This passion was also combined with numbers to make the argument stronger.

“They trained us on specific talking points,” Davis says. “It was not only why are we involved and why are we passionate about immunizations globally, but also gave us the tools to use the facts.”

“We talked about the cost effectiveness of international vaccines, and how for every dollar spent on a childhood vaccine is like a $44 savings for the US in the long run,” Hill says.


“They had people from the top lobbying firms come,” Luthy says. “Your whole day prior to ‘Hill Day’ is all preparation and then you have ‘Hill Day’ which is all day.”

“Hill Day” is when the students and faculty are sent to visit different congressional representatives and lobby them to support vaccinations. The process requires that students and faculty step out of their comfort zones and interact with politicians and staffers.

“Shot@Life actually sets up appointments with different congressmen and they take a group of us and we just walk around the capital and go to the different offices,” Eden says.

As they went about their lobbying rounds, the students were surprised by how much of a difference they felt they could make as they visited different offices.

“It was really awesome,” Hill says. “I don’t think I had any idea how much your representatives actually care about what their constituents think.”

“What surprised me is that for the most part our representatives and our senators are accessible,” Bateman says. “You may not be meeting with the senator or the congressperson themselves, but someone is there that you can meet with. I think that that’s what America is all about—it’s making your government officials accessible.”

One of the trip’s highlights was a personal meeting the students and faculty had with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. He expressed his support for Shot@Life’s goals, and the students were able to ask him about lessons he had learned from serving so long in Congress.

Overall, students came away from the experience with a stronger appreciation for their own capabilities to bring about change as citizens.

“I think it was an empowering experience,” Luthy says.


“I think a lot of them developed a passion for advocacy and that they could actually make a difference and learn how to get involved,” Eden says. “Being out here in Utah you feel like you can’t do anything about what’s going on in Washington D.C., but to be actually be out there and see that show that there’s potential.”

“Going forward, it encourages me to be more involved in issues that I feel strongly about whether they’re global health type things or they’re issues impacting Utah families right here within our own state as well as policy issues for increased practice for nurse practitioners, anything like that,” Davis says. “I feel like I want to have more of a voice because I see that you really can make a difference.”

“This experience showed to me that you don’t have to be in Africa, you don’t have to be in Southeast Asia to make a difference,” Bateman says. “It doesn’t have to be this grand thing—you can do things here in your own country, here in your own state to make an impact on global health.”

Now that the students are returned, they have the opportunity to continue their advocacy work. Shot@Life, Luthy explains, expects students to follow-up on the meetings they had in Washington D.C. and remain involved in promoting childhood vaccination funding.

“It’s fun to go to this summit and get all fired up and meet with lots of other people, but the work continues throughout the year to make sure that we are raising awareness for vaccines and the importance of global vaccines,” Hill says.

The Importance of Apologies

Marie Prothero received the college’s 2016 Alumni Achievement Award in recognition for her contribution to the nursing profession. This article contains excerpts from her BYU Homecoming address, delivered October 13, 2016.

“I believe that for us to move healthcare forward into achieving quality healthcare and outcomes, [we must] have transparency,” says Marie Mellor Prothero (MS ’96), MSN, RN, FACHE. A nurse administrator, Prothero is the executive director of quality for St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. She oversees quality assurance for her organization that includes electronic reporting, patient concerns, and physician compliance. She also strives to improve process flow and safety efforts.

Prothero is currently working on a PhD in nursing from the University of Utah; her dissertation is focused on transparency in healthcare and the role of an apology following a medical error.

The attributes of an apology include expressing regret and sorrow, admitting fault with a statement that an error occurred, listening with dignity and respect, correcting the mistake and ensuring it will not happen again, and offering restitution to the victim.

Her studies highlight several antecedents, such as why we apologize and the corollaries of not apologizing when there is a medical mistake or accident.

“We must realize [that the] consequences of not apologizing affects our emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being,” says Prothero. “And if left unresolved, [mistakes] can create feelings of bitterness and even increase litigation and settlement costs.”

To give an effective apology, one must express regret and sorrow; you cannot fully apologize without remorse. “A conversation casually informing a patient of the error is inadequate,” says Prothero, “and so is a statement that seems forced and insults others’ intelligence.” Appropriately apologizing takes the right setting and practice.

Prothero’s research serves as a starting point for additional inquiry to explore the nature and types of apologies. It will help other nurse leaders identify what comes after the apology and if the patient-provider relationship can be repaired.

“There must be ongoing communication as additional details are learned—with the patient and family members, as well as with unit staff and hospital administrators,” she says. “Once we identify system changes, we need to involve others in the process to ensure needs are met and proper training occurs.”

Further, Prothero’s studies clarify the role of nursing in disclosure, apology, and the creation of a culture of safety in which everyone feels valued and able to speak up. “We must continue the important work of quality assurance, process improvement, and system improvement,” she says. “Never forget that every patient matters.”

She also emphasizes that nurses have the opportunity to be leaders with a broad impact in their organization.

“Leadership is interdisciplinary and [is] a team approach,” she says. “You must know your strengths and weaknesses and understand what you bring to the team. Then surround yourself with people who are different from you and learn from each other for success.”

Prothero has been a leader her whole career. Before St. Mark’s, she was the CEO of Utah Valley Specialty Hospital in Provo for seven years, a CEO of Ernest Health for four years, and an operations officer with Intermountain Healthcare for 22 years.

“Never stop learning and developing your nursing and leadership skills,” she concludes. “Success comes from ensuring the success of your peers. Take time to remove roadblocks, recognize achievement, and encourage others. By being a positive influence, you can see the best in your team.”


Immunization Exemptions and Pediatric Care

As a family nurse practitioner working in a pediatric outpatient clinic, assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden (BS ’02, MS ’09) educates parents about the general health of their child. Eden frequently addresses parents’ questions and concerns regarding immunizations for their child due to the requirement that parents provide either proof of completion or a certificate of exemption before their child can be enrolled in school.

Because of her experiences talking with parents about immunizations, Eden decided to research the rising immunization exemption rates in Utah. She is currently working on a standardized education module for immunization exemptions and also a mobile app called Best for Baby.

Education Model for Immunization Exemption Rates

Immunization exemption rates, particularly those granted for philosophical reasons, have risen drastically in Utah over the last few years. The rise in exemptions may have played a role in several recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases (measles and pertussis) in Utah, which prompted Eden to research the education provided for parents who wish to obtain an exemption. Currently she is investigating the specific education requirements for philosophical immunization exemptions in all states across the country and how effective this education is at combating the rise in exemption rates.

In her research, Eden found that all 50 states allow medical exemptions for immunizations, 48 states allow religious exemptions, and 18 states allow philosophical exemptions. Utah is one of the 18 states that allows all three types of exemptions. While 18 states allow philosophical exemptions, only 14 states require education before granting exemptions. The type of education parents receive varies from state to state and from county to county throughout Utah.

Eden has discussed her study with several prominent leaders of various associations and departments, including the health director and the immunization manager at the Utah State Health Department and the chair of the Utah Department of Human Services, in efforts to implement a standardized education module for Utahns to complete in order to gain a philosophical immunization exemption. She has also been invited to participate on an immunization exemption task force with several key participants in the state and with fellow College of Nursing faculty—Dr. Beth Luthy (MS ’05), Gaye Ray (AS ’81), Dr. Janelle Macintosh, and Dr. Renea Beckstrand (AS ’81, BS ’83, MS ’87). This task force is charged with creating a standardized education module that can teach parents the signs and symptoms of diseases, what to do if their child contracts a disease, and what to do in the case of an outbreak. The module will also answer frequently asked questions about immunizations and provide information about obtaining low-cost immunizations.

The Association of Immunization Managers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have contributed to this project by aiding in the data-collection process and reviewing the research questions on educational requirements in reducing immunization exemptions.

Best for Baby App

In 2013, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) published its recommendation that pregnant women should get a Tdap vaccination between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Infants do not receive this vaccine until two months of age, but in the womb they do inherit temporary protective antibodies from their mothers, so it is essential for mothers to receive the vaccine and pass antibodies to their children in utero.

Despite being recommended by the ACIP, very few women receive the Tdap vaccine during their third trimester, so Eden, who serves as chair of the Utah County Immunization Coalition, decided to educate soon-to-be parents through a free mobile-device app called Best for Baby (now available on iTunes).

Though geared toward increasing Tdap immunization rates, the app does much more than just teach about vaccines. The program sends expectant parents weekly push notifications that provide updates on their baby’s development and when they need to see their OB/GYN. Additionally, updates tell parents what tests to expect at their next appointment, what those tests look for, and why they are performed. The app continues to give parents monthly push notifications for two years after the birth of the child. These updates include when the child should see a care provider, what developmental milestones he or she should reach during the month, and what immunizations that child should receive.

Oh, It’s a Jolly Holiday with Leslie! Yoga and Fingerpainting Are Back In Style In Nursing Relaxation

Note: To offer more insight into the lives of nursing students, we are sending Steven, a writer for the College of Nursing, to the weekly Nursing Stress Management Course. Steven is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major. This post contains the summaries of two of the previous classes, with the first focusing on yoga and the second on fingerpainting.

Part One: On Pain, Reflexology, and Yoga Nidra

I showed up to the stress management class excited, ready to finger-paint. I noticed quickly that everyone was wearing comfortable clothes, and was informed that there had been a change. It was now yoga day, and I was in jeans.


Students prepare to follow instructor Maria in yoga.

Yoga and I have always had an interesting relationship. Once while visiting the mission doctor, his wife had made me do intensive yoga while I waited, a process that just barely fell short of violating the eighth amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

I thought that I had escaped, but I was later called in to translate for a meeting with her and my mission president, in which to my horror I found myself communicating my mission president’s desire for her to teach yoga to the entire mission. That’s how the Chile Santiago North Mission found itself doing yoga at zone conferences in suits and ties, and how I became a wanted man.

For the class, we had an instructor named Maria who teaches therapeutic yoga as a way to help patients recover from medical issues. Maybe, just maybe, she could de-stress a bunch of Type A nursing students and an Arabic major doing yoga in a button up.

We started by rolling a racquetball under our feet. This was based on the ideas of reflexology, a school of thought that says that points on the hands and feet are connected to the rest of the body. By relieving those points, you can relieve other areas like the back.


Students massage their feet with racquetballs. Reflexology says that this will help them take pressure off various points in their bodies.

Now came real yoga. We did moves that aimed to help our muscles relax. We bent over, twisted, and performed various motions. Through it all, I found myself slowly starting to feel a bit less tense. All the while, Maria explained the benefit of each move. At one point, she told assistant teaching professor Leslie Miles that we would be working on something to help her back.

“Yay, we’re going to fix me!” she cried out in glee. We all were repeating that statement in our heads.


Maria shows students how to prepare for the puppy pose.

One of our final move combinations was first to put our legs against the wall and leave them there for several minutes. Then we laid on our backs and adjusted our feet so that our backs had less pressure.

That was when it happened—I suddenly felt asleep, but I was awake. It was a weird, halfway point. I stayed in that immensely relaxed state for a few minutes until it was time to get up, upon which Maria informed me that I had been in yoga nidra. I’m still not sure what that means, but it was nice.

By the end of the session, I felt more relaxed, as usual. This class is so helpful for figuring out the ways to de-stress that best work for each person.

Now, if you come across me with my legs propped against the wall not talking, just keep walking. It’s just yoga nidra.


Part Two: Oh, It’s a Jolly Holiday with Leslie!

It was the afternoon. Students milled around, hauling large sheets of paper and eagerly grabbing the paint. Fingers were saturated in orange, blue, red, yellow, and purple as they worked to create masterpieces. Sometimes it got on the desks, but the teacher was used to this.

Spoiler: this isn’t a kindergarten class. This is nursing stress management, and I may or not have been the main culprit behind the paint on the desk (I cleaned it up!).


Students gather supplies for painting and coloring.

Assistant teaching professor Leslie Miles had brought in lots of paper, both to color and to fingerpaint. Everyone was excited. Today was art and music therapy day, possibly the most anticipated class of the term.

After reviewing our stress levels in groups, we proceeded to discuss how music aids relaxation. Miles explained that not all music is equal in this area—songs with various chord changes are better suited than many modern songs, which are simply repetitive. She impersonated a rap song, but my life would be in jeopardy if I dared repeat it here.

With that, we each got our supplies and began our artistic adventures. In the background, Miles was blaring one of her favorite albums—the original Mary Poppins soundtrack.

I began a relentless campaign to replace every white spot on my paper with some color. In the end, my creation resembled many of my friends returning home from the Festival of Colors.

Others, however, were superbly done. Miles was surprised at the quality of the artwork, and I was surprised at how each student seemed to be focused wholly on the project and not any impending nursing deadlines.

I could go on, but pictures here do more justice than words.




The Magic Yarn Project and BYU Team Up to Make Wigs for Childhood Cancer Patients

Last Saturday in what turned out to be a landmark service project, over 400 people crowded the Wilkinson Center ballroom to create Disney-themed wigs for kids with cancer. The project, sponsored by The Magic Yarn Project and the BYU College of Nursing, was a massive success.

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The Magic Yarn Project co-founder Holly Christensen works with volunteers to prepare a Moana wig.

“I did not expect to have so many people show up,” Holly Christensen, a BYU College of Nursing alumna and co-founder of The Magic Yarn Project, says.

The Magic Yarn Project is a non-profit group started by Christensen in Alaska. It relies entirely on donors and volunteers to make the soft-yarn hairpieces, so the BYU event represented a huge increase in both productivity and publicity.

“We’ve never done a workshop this big,” she says. “I’m completely touched and overwhelmed by how many people came and it’s hard for me not to get too emotional thinking about it but it’s been awesome.”

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Volunteers make Moana-inspired wigs

During the course of the five-hour project, 185 wigs were made, with styles ranging from Elsa to Jack Sparrow to Rapunzel and other Disney-related characters. This was a record number for the Magic Yarn Project, and during the event, many participants were touched by the potential impact of their work.

“I really enjoyed this,” student Dhina Clement says. “I definitely felt like this was the most productive that I have ever been.”

Nursing student Jessica Wright agrees. “This is an awesome volunteer experience because you feel like what you’re doing is helping someone,” she says. “You can imagine having the wig on a little girl’s head and how happy she’ll be when she sees it.”

Students were not the only ones working—many members of the wider Utah Valley community arrived, oftentimes with large amounts of children in tow in order for many hands to make light work.

“I heard about this through a friend from work, and I thought it was just a great idea to come and just put my effort into it for any of the kids who need it,” says Esme Still, whose children worked beside her. In addition, five nursing professors were also present braiding and preparing wigs.

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The Wilkinson Center ballroom was completely full of volunteers. 185 wigs were made in the five-hour project.

Around half of the wigs made at this event will be given to patients at Primary Children’s Hospital, while others will be sent to patients in Louisiana and Arizona. The impacts of the project, however, extend also to the participants, who felt grateful to have been able to contribute to the event.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to bring some joy to some people and it was really easy and fun and simple,” student Sam Smith says. “It’s nice to wake up on a Saturday morning and do something for someone else.”

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Anyone interested in future volunteer opportunities with The Magic Yarn Project should visit